The Group of Eight (G8) is a forum for the governments of seven leading industrialized democracies, plus Russia. The forum originated with a 1975 summit hosted by France that brought together representatives of six governments: France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, thus leading to the name Group of Six or G6. The summit became known as the Group of Seven or G7 the following year with the addition of Canada. The G7 is composed by the 7 developed wealthiest countries on Earth (as national net wealth) and by the 7 developed wealthiest countries on Earth by GDP, and it remains active despite the creation of the G8. In 1998, Russia was added to the group which then became known as the G8. The European Union is represented within the G8 but cannot host or chair summits.
"G8" can refer to the member states in aggregate or to the annual summit meeting of the G8 heads of government. The former term, G6, is now frequently applied to the six most populous countries within the European Union. G8 ministers also meet throughout the year, such as the G7/8 finance ministers (who meet four times a year), G8 foreign ministers, or G8 environment ministers.
Collectively, the G8 nations comprise 50.1% of 2012 global nominal GDP and 40.9% of global GDP (PPP). Each calendar year, the responsibility of hosting the G8 rotates through the member states in the following order: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada. The holder of the presidency sets the agenda, hosts the summit for that year, and determines which ministerial meetings will take place. Lately, both France and the United Kingdom have expressed a desire to expand the group to include five developing countries, referred to as the Outreach Five (O5) or the Plus Five: Brazil (7th country in the world by nominal GDP ), People's Republic of China (2nd country in the world by GDP ), India (9th country in the world by GDP ), Mexico, and South Africa. These countries have participated as guests in previous meetings, which are sometimes called G8+5.
With the G-20 major economies growing in stature since the 2008 Washington summit, world leaders from the group announced at their Pittsburgh summit on September 25, 2009, that the group will replace the G8 as the main economic council of wealthy nations.
The concept of a forum for the world's major industrialized democracies emerged prior the 1973 oil crisis. On Sunday, March 25, 1973, Secretary of the TreasuryGeorge Shultz convened an informal gathering of Finance Ministers from West Germany (Helmut Schmidt), France (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing), and Britain (Anthony Barber) before an upcoming meeting in Washington DC. When running the idea past President Nixon, he noted that he would be out of town, and offered use of the White House; the meeting was subsequently held in the library on the ground floor. Taking their name from the setting, this original group of four became known as the "Library Group". In mid-1973, at the World Bank-IMF meetings, Shultz proposed the addition of Japan to the original four nations, who agreed. The informal gathering of senior financial officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Japan, and France became known as the "Group of Five."
The year that followed was one of the most turbulent of the post World War II era, The heads of state or government of the top ten industrial nations fell due to illness or scandal. There were two elections in the UK, three Chancellors of West Germany, three presidents of France, three Prime Ministers of Japan and Italy, two US Presidents and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada was forced into an early election. Of the members of the "Group of Five" all were new to the job with the exception of Prime Minister Trudeau.
As 1975 dawned, Schmidt and Giscard were now heads of state in their respective countries, and since they both spoke fluent English, it occurred to them that they, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and US President Gerald Ford could get together in an informal retreat and discuss election results and the issues of the day. So, in the late spring, President Giscard invited the heads of government from West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to a summit in Château de Rambouillet; the annual meeting of the six leaders was organized under a rotating presidency, forming the Group of Six (G6). The following year, with Wilson out as Prime Minister of Britain, Schmidt and Ford felt an English speaker with more experience was needed, so Canada's Pierre Trudeau was invited to join the group  and the group became the Group of Seven (G7). The European Union is represented by the President of the European Commission and the leader of the country that holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The President of the European Commission has attended all meetings since first invited by the United Kingdom in 1977 and the Council President now also regularly attends.
Following 1994's G7 summit in Naples, Russian officials held separate meetings with leaders of the G7 after the group's summits. This informal arrangement was dubbed the Political 8 (P8) – or, colloquially, the G7+1. At the invitation of Prime Minister of the United KingdomTony Blair and President of the United StatesBill Clinton, President Boris Yeltsin was invited first as a guest observer, later as a full participant. It was seen as a way to encourage Yeltsin with his capitalist reforms. Russia formally joined the group in 1998, resulting in the Group of Eight, or G8.
A major focus of the G8 since 2009 has been the global supply of food. At the 2009 L'Aquila summit, the G8's members promised to contribute $20 billion to the issue over three years. Since then, only 22% of the promised funds have been delivered.
By design, the G8 deliberately lacks an administrative structure like those for international organizations, such as the United Nations or the World Bank. The group does not have a permanent secretariat, or offices for its members.
The presidency of the group rotates annually among member countries, with each new term beginning on 1 January of the year. The country holding the presidency is responsible for planning and hosting a series of ministerial-level meetings, leading up to a mid-year summit attended by the heads of government. The president of the European Commission participates as an equal in all summit events.
The ministerial meetings bring together ministers responsible for various portfolios to discuss issues of mutual or global concern. The range of topics include health, law enforcement, labor, economic and social development, energy, environment, foreign affairs, justice and interior, terrorism, and trade. There are also a separate set of meetings known as the G8+5, created during the 2005 Gleneagles, Scotland summit, that is attended by finance and energy ministers from all eight member countries in addition to the five "outreach countries" which are also known as the Group of Five — Brazil, People's Republic of China, India, Mexico, and South Africa.
In June 2005, justice ministers and interior ministers from the G8 countries agreed to launch an international database on pedophiles. The G8 officials also agreed to pool data on terrorism, subject to restrictions by privacy and security laws in individual countries.
At the Heiligendamm Summit in 2007, the G8 acknowledged a proposal from the EU for a worldwide initiative on efficient energy use. They agreed to explore, along with the International Energy Agency, the most effective means to promote energy efficiency internationally. A year later, on 8 June 2008, the G8 along with China, India, South Korea and the European Community established the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, at the Energy Ministerial meeting hosted by Japan holding 2008 G8 Presidency, in Aomori.
G8 Finance Ministers, whilst in preparation for the 34th Summit of the G8 Heads of State and Government in Toyako, Hokkaido, met on the 13 and 14 June 2008, in Osaka, Japan. They agreed to the “G8 Action Plan for Climate Change to Enhance the Engagement of Private and Public Financial Institutions.” In closing, Ministers supported the launch of new Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) by the World Bank, which will help existing efforts until a new framework under the UNFCCC is implemented after 2012. The UNFCCC is not on track to meeting any of its stated goals.
The annual G8 leaders summit is attended by the heads of government. The member country holding the G8 presidency is responsible for organizing and hosting the year's summit.
The serial annual summits can be parsed chronologically in arguably distinct ways, including as the sequence of host countries for the summits has recurred over time, series, etc.
|1st||November 15–17, 1975||France||Valéry Giscard d'Estaing||Rambouillet (Castle of Rambouillet)||G6 Summit|
|2nd||June 27–28, 1976||United States||Gerald R. Ford||Dorado, Puerto Rico||Also called "Rambouillet II;" Canada joins the group, forming the G7|
|3rd||May 7–8, 1977||United Kingdom||James Callaghan||London||President of the European Commission is invited to join the annual G-7 summits|
|4th||July 16–17, 1978||West Germany||Helmut Schmidt||Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|5th||June 28–29, 1979||Japan||Masayoshi Ōhira||Tokyo|
|6th||June 22–23, 1980||Italy||Francesco Cossiga||Venice||acting Prime Minister Masayoshi Ito of Japan did not attend.|
|7th||July 20–21, 1981||Canada||Pierre E. Trudeau||Montebello, Quebec|
|8th||June 4–6, 1982||France||François Mitterrand||Versailles|
|9th||May 28–30, 1983||United States||Ronald Reagan||Williamsburg, Virginia|
|10th||June 7–9, 1984||United Kingdom||Margaret Thatcher||London|
|11th||May 2–4, 1985||West Germany||Helmut Kohl||Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|12th||May 4–6, 1986||Japan||Yasuhiro Nakasone||Tokyo|
|13th||June 8–10, 1987||Italy||Amintore Fanfani||Venice|
|14th||June 19–21, 1988||Canada||Brian Mulroney||Toronto|
|15th||July 14–16, 1989||France||François Mitterrand||Paris|
|16th||July 9–11, 1990||United States||George H. W. Bush||Houston|
|17th||July 15–17, 1991||United Kingdom||John Major||London|
|18th||July 6–8, 1992||Germany||Helmut Kohl||Munich, Bavaria|
|19th||July 7–9, 1993||Japan||Kiichi Miyazawa||Tokyo|
|20th||July 8–10, 1994||Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||Naples|
|21st||June 15–17, 1995||Canada||Jean Chrétien||Halifax, Nova Scotia|||
|22nd||June 27–29, 1996||France||Jacques Chirac||Lyon||International organizations' debut to G8 Summits periodically. The invited ones here were: United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.|
|23rd||June 20–22, 1997||United States||Bill Clinton||Denver||||Russia joins the group, forming G8|
|24th||May 15–17, 1998||United Kingdom||Tony Blair||Birmingham|||
|25th||June 18–20, 1999||Germany||Gerhard Schröder||Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia||||First Summit of the G-20 major economies at Berlin|
|26th||July 21–23, 2000||Japan||Yoshiro Mori||Nago, Okinawa||||Formation of the G8+5 starts, when South Africa was invited. Until the 38th G8 summit in 2012, it has been invited to the Summit annually without interruption. Also, with permission from a G8 leader, other nations were invited to the Summit on a periodical basis for the first time. Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal accepted their invitations here. The World Health Organization was also invited for the first time.|
|27th||July 20–22, 2001||Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||Genoa||||Leaders from Bangladesh, Mali and El Salvador accepted their invitations here. Demonstrator Carlo Giuliani is shot and killed by police during a violent demonstration. One of the largest and most violent anti-globalization movement protests occurred for the 27th G8 summit. Following those events and the September 11 attacks two months later in 2001, the G8 have met at more remote locations.|
|28th||June 26–27, 2002||Canada||Jean Chrétien||Kananaskis, Alberta||||Russia gains permission to officially host a G8 Summit.|
|29th||June 2–3, 2003||France||Jacques Chirac||Évian-les-Bains||||The G8+5 was unofficially made, when China, India, Brazil, and Mexico were invited to this Summit for the first time. South Africa has joined the G8 Summit, since 2000, until the 2012 edition. Other first-time nations that were invited by the French president included: Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Switzerland.|
|30th||June 8–10, 2004||United States||George W. Bush||Sea Island, Georgia||||A record number of leaders from 12 different nations accepted their invitations here. Amongst a couple of veteran nations, the others were: Ghana, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen and Uganda. Also, the state funeral of former president Ronald Reagan took place in Washington during the summit.|
|31st||July 6–8, 2005||United Kingdom||Tony Blair||Gleneagles||||The G8+5 was officially formed. On the second day of the meeting, suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London Underground and a bus. Nations that were invited for the first time were Ethiopia and Tanzania. The African Union and the International Energy Agency made their debut here. During the 31st G8 summit in United Kingdom, 225,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh as part of the Make Poverty History campaign calling for Trade Justice, Debt Relief and Better Aid. Numerous other demonstrations also took place challenging the legitimacy of the G8.|
|32nd||July 15–17, 2006||Russia||Vladimir Putin||Strelna, St. Petersburg||||First G8 Summit on Russian soil. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNESCO made their debut here.|
|33rd||June 6–8, 2007||Germany||Angela Merkel||Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||||Seven different international organizations accepted their invitations to this Summit. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Commonwealth of Independent States made their debut here.|
|34th||July 7–9, 2008||Japan||Yasuo Fukuda||Toyako (Lake Toya), Hokkaido||||Nations that accepted their G8 Summit invitations for the first time are: Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.|
|35th||July 8–10, 2009||Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||L'Aquila, Abruzzo||||This G8 Summit was originally planned to be in La Maddalena (Sardinia), but was moved to L'Aquila as a way of showing Prime Minister Berlusconi's desire to help the region in and around L'Aquila after the earthquake that hit the area on the April 6th, 2009. Nations that accepted their invitations for the first time were: Angola, Denmark, Netherlands and Spain. A record of TEN (10) international organizations were represented in this G8 Summit. For the first time, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme, and the International Labour Organization accepted their invitations.|
|36th||June 25–26, 2010||Canada||Stephen Harper||Huntsville, Ontario||||Malawi, Colombia, Haiti, and Jamaica accepted their invitations for the first time.|
|37th||May 26–27, 2011||France||Nicolas Sarkozy||Deauville,Basse-Normandie||||Guinea, Niger, Côte d'Ivoire and Tunisia accepted their invitations for the first time. Also, the League of Arab States made its debut to the meeting.|
|38th||May 18–19, 2012||United States||Barack Obama||Camp David||||The summit was originally planned for Chicago, along with the NATO summit, but it was announced officially on March 5, 2012, that the G8 summit will be held at the more private location of Camp David and at one day earlier than previously scheduled. Also, this is the second G8 summit, in which one of the core leaders (Vladimir Putin) declined to participate. This G8 summit concentrated on the core leaders only; no non-G8 leaders or international organizations were invited.|
|39th||June 17–18, 2013||United Kingdom||David Cameron||Lough Erne, County Fermanagh||||Like in 2012, only the core members of the G8 attended this meeting. The four main topics that were discussed here were trade, government transparency, tackling tax evasion, and the ongoing Syrian crisis.|
|40th||June 4–5, 2014||Russia||Vladimir Putin||Sochi|||
|41st||2015||Germany||Angela Merkel||Schloss Elmau|
These G8 countries represent:
Together the eight countries making up the G8 represent about 14% of the world population, but they represent about 60% of the gross world product as measured by gross domestic product, all eight nations being within the top 12 countries according to the CIA World Factbook. (see the CIA World Factbook column in List of countries by GDP (nominal)), the majority of global military power (seven are in the top 8 nations for military expenditure), and almost all of the world's active nuclear weapons. In 2007, the combined G8 military spending was US$850 billion. This is 72% of the world's total military expenditures. (see List of countries and federations by military expenditures) Four of the G8 members, the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, together account for 96–99% of the world's nuclear weapons. (see List of states with nuclear weapons)
Some criticism centres on the assertion that members of G8 do not do enough to help global problems such as Third World Debt, global warming and the AIDS epidemic—due to strict medicine patent policy and other issues related to globalization. In Unravelling Global Apartheid, the political analyst Titus Alexander described the G7, as it then was, as the 'cabinet' of global minority rule, with a coordinating role in world affairs.
Protesters in London 2013 have carried slogans such as "against the 1%" as a reference to an increasing concentration of wealth and influence.
The G8's relevance is unclear. Critics argue that the G8 has now become unrepresentative of the world's most powerful economies. In particular, China has surpassed every economy but the United States, while Brazil has surpassed Canada and Italy (according to the IMF). Also according to the International Monetary Fund and the CIA World Factbook, India has already surpassed Japan in terms of purchasing power parity, although remaining on the 10th position when it comes to Real GDP. This has given rise to the idea of enlarging G8 to the G8+5, which includes these other economically powerful nations. Other critics assert, however, that the concept of a country's net wealth is different from the nation's GDP.
With Vladimir Putin not attending the 2012 G8 summit at Camp David, there is credence that the summit has generally outlived its usefulness, as a viable international gathering of foreign leaders. As a result of that decision, one Foreign Policy magazine contributor stated that Russia should be deleted from the G8 altogether. However, another FP contributor commented that the G8 is still relevant, despite the increasing international power and prestige of the G-20 major economies leaders' summit.